Dean Brian Kelly reflects on why encyclicals are read at Thomas Aquinas College, as a part of a series explaining why certain authors are included in the College’s curriculum.
The Thomas Aquinas College curriculum emphasizes the Great Books, but since it is a “Catholic program first and foremost,” students also read and discuss papal encyclicals at the end of Senior Seminar.
Dean Kelly says that the students read the documents in order to learn from the guidance of the Church and to see how the Church responded to various intellectual movements in history. The encyclicals often connect with what the students are reading about in class.
“Reading older documents is also a concrete way to gain an appreciation for the continuity of the Faith. In looking at these encyclicals, we find the same Church. Doctrine develops and the mode of expression changes, but the mystical body of Christ persists.”
Dean Kelly hopes that that the students will “thirst for more,” regardless of which encyclicals are assigned. He also relates a lesson learned from the College’s patron, St. Thomas:
“When St. Thomas was dying, he submitted all of his writings to the correction of the Church. In turning to some representative Church documents at the end of Senior year, we hope to remind our students of the importance of this kind of intellectual humility.”
Thomas Aquinas College is recommended by the Newman Society in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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